When you’re mostly on dirt on your mountain bike, you want knobbly tyres for stability. Watch they’re not too knobbly, though. Unless your bike is made for a wider tyre, stick to between 1.75″ and 1.95″ diameter. If you’re mostly on sealed roads on your mountain or hybrid bike, slicks or semi-slicks will be the go. The less aggressive tread means your wheels will roll more easily on the smoother surface. Road bike tyres are the “slickest”, designed for low resistance.
No matter what sort of tyres you have, make sure you keep them pumped up properly. Underinflated tyres have a larger surface area in contact with the road. Not only does that make it harder to push, you increase the wear and risk of a puncture.
The recommended pressure is always written on the wall of the tyre. It will range from 45psi for a mountain bike tyre to around 120psi for a good road bike tyre. How do you know when you’ve got enough air in the tyre? The thumb pressure test is not very accurate – a gauge is your best bet.
If you have schrader (same as car) valves on your tubes, stop into your nearest service station to check them regularly. If you have presta (or French) valves, a floor pump with a built-in pressure gauge is a great investment. You can also get an adapter for presta valves that allows you to use a service station pump. The service station will get your tyres to about 65 psi. For anything above that you’ll need the floor pump.
Check your tyres regularly. You’ll often pick up bits of glass, quartz, metal or wire. Eventually they’ll work their way through your tyre to puncture your tube. Pick them out before they do. You can fill small cuts in your tyres with a dob of silicone or vulcanising glue to keep them healthy. Take special care on grass. Three cornered jacks, also known as bindies, are especially nasty and grass is the best place to pick them up.
And just as with a car, replace your tyres when they’re worn so you maintain the best contact with the riding surface.
See you on the road soon, God willing. Eddie Barkla
First published in the Bendigo Weekly Friday 26 October 2006